Ecotourism infrastructure at Sakumo Ramsar Site to be developed

Accra� A strategic investor has been selected through a competitive bidding process conducted by the Forestry Commission to develop ecotourism infrastructure on the Sakumo Ramsar Site, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, Lands and Natural Resources Minister, has said.

He said about 300 acres (less than 10 per cent) of the 3,371 acres, would be developed, thus leaving 2,451 acres for nature conservation.

This project is a Design, Finance, Build, Operate, Maintain and Transfer Public Private Partnership Model.

Negotiations are ongoing to sign an agreement for the project, estimated at almost $250 million over a concession period of 35 years in the first instance, and renewable for a second term of 25 years, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the meet the press series in Accra, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said Under the agreement, Government will receive an amount of USD 500,000.00 annually in addition to 20 per cent of net annual profit.

He said this was a unique nature-based income generating recreational and job creation opportunity through private sector investment that would provide a major ecotourism destination to people within the West African sub-region.

He said that in order to broaden the revenue base of the forestry subsector, the Ministry has prioritised ecotourism promotion and development as one of the major management tools in safeguarding the ecological integrity of selected wildlife protected areas in the country.

He said it was also to sustainably exploit their enormous potential for income generation.

The Minister said over the years, the sector has implemented innovative marketing strategies that attracted investors such as Gold Fields Ghana Limited through Leadership for Conservation in Africa, Eco-lodges Ghana Limited and Brave-hearts International to implement ecotourism development initiatives in the wildlife protected areas.

On promotion of private sector investments in plantation development, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said as part of efforts to boost private sector participation in forest development, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with a number of entities.

The entities are: the Forestry Commission, Form Ghana Limited, Form International BV, Berekum Traditional Council and Berekum Municipal Authority to restore the degraded Tain II Forest Reserve in the Brong Ahafo Region.

The First Phase of the MoU, which ends in 2021 is being financed at a cost of US$6 million, by Partnerships for Forests, a UK Department for International Development (DFID) Programme and DOB Ecology, a Dutch Foundation, he said.

The agreement will ensure a sustainable restoration of the degraded forest reserve to enhance its productivity. This will begin with a pilot planting of 2,000ha of trees and ultimately restore 100,000ha of the reserve, he added.

With regards to tree tenure and benefit sharing under the MoU, the Minister said by June 2019, the Government would have completed policy reforms that would allow farmers to enjoy benefits of nurturing trees on their farms.

He said this policy was to motivate farmers to keep trees on their farms to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in off-reserve areas.

He said similarly, under the Ghana Forest Investment Programme (GFIP), being implemented by the Ministry, the Forestry Commission, COCOBOD and other partners, farmers are being supported to plant at least 18 trees per hectare of their cocoa farms to guarantee them future revenues and also make the farms more climate resilient.

He said over 2000 farmers are already benefiting from this initiative in cocoa growing areas in the Western Region.

Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said in order to promote active community engagement in forest management, the Ministry together with other partners is establishing Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) in many forest endowed communities.

He said this is to empower the communities to participate in policy dialogue and resource management processes.

The Minister said to support the work of the CREMAs, the Ministry through the GFIP was constructing five CREMA buildings in Bia, Juaboso, Sefwi Traditional Area and Enchi to serve as resource centres for the communities. The buildings are currently in various stages of completion.

Source: Ghana News Agency